Facebook must envy Apple.
While the former has more sign-ups — one out of every 12 people in the world has a Facebook account — Apple has done a better job connecting its accounts to dollars. When Apple debuted the iPad 2 roughly one year ago, the company announced it had broken the 200 million mark for iTunes accounts, each of which is attached to a credit card.
The number of Facebook users that have inputted credit card information to make a purchase may not be much higher than 20 million, at least one source estimates, making Facebook’s commercial base just one-tenth the size of Apple’s.
The task of connecting users to dollars is likely near the top of Facebook’s list of goals for new future revenue streams. And should that indeed be the case, there’s a group of bankers in Australia that might soon be hearing from the FB HQ.
Two months ago, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia launched Kaching. Kaching is an iPhone app that allows users to make bank transfers directly from their mobile phones to any other bank account in Australia. The app involves Facebook in three ways:
- Identification. Kaching’s users can connect to friends for fund transfers by browsing through their Facebook friends and selecting one within the app.
- Notification. The app allows users to notify the recipient that money has been transferred via Facebook wall post.
- Authorization. When transferring to a Facebook friend, Kaching takes advantage of the security features built into Facebook’s login process. To redeem the transfer, the recipient must provide the Payment Code, the exact amount transferred, a valid Facebook username and password, and identifying information for an Australian bank account.
Redemption is handled at a separate web portal, accessible by any browser — meaning the recipient doesn’t have to download an app, or create a new account.
More than 100,000 users have downloaded Kaching since the app’s launch two months ago, according to CommBank’s official blog. The bulk of the transfers handled by Kaching have been mobile-to-mobile transactions, but transfers over Facebook have been surprisingly popular — roughly 10% of all transfers have involved Facebook, CommBank says. (The bank is not yet ready to disclose the amount of money being transferred via Kaching.)
Kaching also offers Australians a way to gain NFC payment capability. For roughly $59 US, app users can purchase an NFC-capable phone case, called iCarte, which connects a user’s mobile phone to an existing MasterCard account.
(In the U.S., few consumers are expected to want to pay for the ability to pay via NFC, with issuers and networks likely footing the bill. To that end, one CommBank customer tweeted: “You would have to be really brain dead to pay extra $54.95 to use NFC on iPhone. If you have spare $54.95 send it to me!”)
Kaching won’t do much good for American consumers — the app is only available through Apple’s Australian App Store. Instead, U.S. users can look to PayPal’s Send Money Facebook app, which allows for fund transfers between PayPal accounts.
But that method of money transfer still requires both the sender and the recipient to have PayPal accounts. At this point, for fund transfers between any two bank accounts via smartphone app, you’ll have to move to Australia.